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Taylor will push widening of I-81

September 27, 1999|By SCOTT BUTKI

Maryland House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. said Monday he will push during the 2000 General Assembly session for funds to widen Interstate 81 as long as adjacent states also make plans to widen the route.

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"I am urging our governor to move forward in widening 81," Taylor said in a phone interview.

He said, however, it does not make sense to commit to spending $10 million to widen the 13-mile Maryland portion of I- 81 unless the Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania governments do the same. West Virginia is already widening part of I-81.

He considers that push separate from a $625,000 multi-state study into the possibility of making parts of I-81, U.S. 219, U.S. 220 or U.S. 522 into an interstate corridor running from West Virginia to Pennsylvania, he said.

The so-called north-south corridor would be eligible for more federal funds because it would have more interstate traffic, Transportation Secretary John D. Porcari said during a presentation in Hagerstown Friday.

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Taylor, D-Allegany, prefers a corridor route that would run through parts of Allegany and Garrett counties.

He said he thinks I-81 should be widened regardless of where the corridor is placed.

"That needs to be done to keep up an existing north-south corridor and make it modern and competitive. And $10 million is a really small price to pay to do that," Taylor said.

"That should have no bearing on trying to bring the mountain counties into the 20th century," he said.

Washington County Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said he is encouraged by Taylor's comments.

"Our need is probably more immediate than their need, which is a little bit longer term," Snook said.

At a conference late this week, Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening will ask Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge to cooperate in the corridor study, Porcari said. Virginia and West Virginia governments previously agreed to assist with this study.

The study's boundaries are the Maryland-West Virginia state line on the west, I-81 on the east, Interstate 68 on the north and a planned highway, known as Corridor H, near Moorefield, W.Va., to the south.

The study would take 12 to 15 months to complete, Porcari said.

Glendening will also ask Ridge about whether he would widen I-81 in Pennsylvania, Taylor said.

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